EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A federal magistrate judge on Monday certified a request from the government of Mexico to extradite former Chihuahua Gov. Cesar Horacio Duarte Jaquez.
“I find that the extradition request satisfies the (U.S.-Mexico) Treaty’s requirements and that there is probable cause to believe that Duarte committed the crimes charged in the extradition complaint,” U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of Florida Lauren F. Louis wrote in her order.
The magistrate ordered Duarte to remain in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service – he is being held at the Federal Detention Center in Miami – pending a review of the extradition request by the U.S. State Department or a potential voluntary surrender by Duarte to the government of Mexico.
Duarte, governor of the border state of Chihuahua from 2010 to 2016, was arrested in Miami on July 8, 2020. According to a federal complaint, Duarte directed transactions from which either himself or his family received government funds. Most of those transactions had to do with farm and cattle subsidies that allegedly wound up in accounts linked to businesses associated with the then-sitting governor, his wife, their family and childhood friends. The amount of the public funds involved hovers around $100 million.
A federal arrest warrant alleges that evidence of the fraud exists to show the money went to Union Ganadera Regional and Financiera de la Division del Norte S.A. de C.V.
The complaint states that the government of Mexico charged Duarte with illicit enrichment while in public office (“peculado”) and criminal association. U.S. court documents show that Duarte’s lawyers asked Louis to dismiss the extradition request on the grounds that the statute of limitations for the alleged crimes had run out in Mexico.
On Monday, however, Louis wrote that the statute of limitations is up to eight years for the illicit enrichment charge because of the aggravated nature of the crime. The association or conspiracy charge doesn’t expire for seven and a half years after the fact due to the aggravated nature of his status as a public official at the time, according to her order.
The judge further determined that doubling the statute of limitations to 16 years for illicit enrichment was appropriate because Duarte failed to appear when summoned to court and on account of an Interpol “red notice” issued for the former governor on March 31, 2017. The conspiracy charge likewise wouldn’t expire until 2024, the judge wrote. (A “red notice” is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and detain an individual pending extradition or other legal action.)
Border Report on Monday reached out to Bell, Rosquete, Reyes, Esteban, one of the law firms representing Duarte in Florida, but was told the attorneys had no comment on the order at this time.
“I find that, upon its issuance, the Mexican arrest warrant tolled the statute of limitations … under both U.S. and Mexican law, making the (criminal) association charge timely,” Louis wrote. As far as the illicit enrichment by embezzlement, “I find that the statute of limitations was tolled upon the respondent’s departure from Mexico in November 2016 […] and for the foregoing reasons, the respondent’s motion to dismiss the extradition complaint is denied.”
Louis stated her court was not determining guilt or innocence, but whether the extradition request complied with U.S. law and the binational treaty.
Javier Corral Jurado, the former Chihuahua governor who initiated the criminal probe on his predecessor, said the order brings Duarte closer to facing justice in Mexico.
“The long battle against corruption and impunity today moves forward decisively,” Corral posted on social media. “It’s not only about penalizing one of the greatest robberies against the people of Chihuahua, but also to take away all of his seized properties as a guarantee of reparations.”
Chihuahua has seized several properties and farming machines from Duarte, who is seeking their return in Mexican courts.